Railway Board mulls allowing Private Sector to own, execute, operate, projects: Sources

Indian Railways may now allow the Private Sector to set up their own Railway Lines

NEW DELHI: The railway board is considering a proposal to allow private players to own, operate and execute railway lines, senior officials of the national transporter said today, as the Union Budget earmarked the highest-ever capital expenditure of Rs.1.48 lakh crore to it.

Sources say the proposal includes allowing private sector to invest in full projects, with railways only charging a licence fee for it.

“This would increase competition in the sector. Private companies can set up their own lines and can either themselves run trains or have other third party operators. They will have to pay a small charge to railways,” a top rail official said.

The official said that the idea was still in the conceptualization stage and the rail board was working on the feasibility.

“We could allow both freight and passenger trains,” the official said without divulging anymore details.

Railway currently allows private parties to run freight trains on its tracks, though operations of the trains is still in hands of railways. The national transporter also runs a few luxury tourist trains in joint venture with state governments.

When asked about the plans to allow private players to own and operate railway lines on their own, the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has said, @I would want the participation of private players in the railway sector. Why not? They will only improve our efficiency and bring in bigger investments”.

Rs.1.48 lakh crore has been allocated for 2018-19 in the Budget for the railways against Rs.1.31 lakh crore allocated during previous year’s Budget, but Goyal plans to mobilise financial resources for the planned expenditure, particularly by accruing private sector investments.

“We are going to improve efficiency. Losses can be made up through efficiency,” the minister told a press briefing.

He attributed much of the delay in railways to the 150year-old signalling system. Goyal said the railway board has already taken a decision to modernise the entire signalling system.

“ETCS (European Train Control System) II, which is the most modern signalling system in the world will be brought to India. In the next 5-6 years as the system is put in place, there will be no delays due to fog anymore,” he said.

The minister also said India’s most ambitious indigenous train set, which are being built in Chennai, are on track and the first such train which will run at a speed of 176 km/hr will become operational in September 2018.

“In this government, work doesn’t stop. My guess is that as we stabilise our technology, in the near future we will make as many as 100 such train sets per year,” he said.

German-make Linke-Hofmann-Busch passenger coaches named “Train 18” and “Train 20” in consonance with the year of their production, the completely indigenous coaches, are designed to run at a top speed of 160 kmph. These two trains, once operational are aimed at replacing the Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains.

On a lighter note, the minister when asked if AC waitlisted passengers would be upgraded to flights – he said, “Idea acha hai. (It’s agood idea). So you don’t want your tickets to be confirmed?” he asked.